Avoid skin cancer from Florida’s powerful sun


Senior Life photo

There’s no way to avoid the sunshine in Florida, and that can be both good and bad. With all of that sunshine throughout the year, the dangers of over exposure can be dangerous, especially for seniors.

According to Dr. Robert Norman of the Skin Cancer Foundation, as seniors age, the risk for developing skin cancer only increases.

There are many reasons for this,” Norman said. “First, most skin cancers result from sun damage over the course of our lives. Seniors have lived longer; they have had the most sun exposure and sustained the most damage from ultraviolet (UV) light. Both sunburns and suntans damage our skin’s DNA, breaking down the skin’s tissues so that it ages before its time. (This produces) genetic defects that can lead to skin cancer.”

Norman explained that suffering five burns throughout one’s life doubles one’s chances of developing melanoma.

The upside of having lowered defenses, however, is that skin cancer is preventable through means of various protections.

“Fortunately for older people, prevention is not that big a burden,” Norman said. “It just takes some consistent precaution. It’s pretty much a three-pronged program: one, stay out of tanning beds; two, use effective sun protection; and three, check your skin.

“Proper sun protection starts with timing,”  Norman said. “The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are typically the most UV-intense. So, plan outside adventures for early morning or late afternoon. When you do go outside, seek shade from the direct sun and wear sun-safe clothing. (This includes) a long-sleeved shirt and long pants made of densely woven materials, a wide-brimmed hat and UV-filtering sunglasses. Use an SPF 15 or higher broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30+, water-resistant sunscreen for extended or intense outdoor exposures such as on the golf course) and reapply at least every two hours or immediately after swimming or heavy sweating.”

Along with these tips, Norman recommends the frequent monitoring of one’s skin to check for suspicious spots.

“The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends head-to-toe self-examination once a month and an annual visit to a dermatologist for a professional total-body exam,” Norman said. “Be alert to any growth with an irregular border, multiple colors and increased size or any other notable change. Persistent pain, irritation, itching, bleeding or crusting at any skin site should also be brought to your dermatologist’s attention, as well as any new lesion appearing after age 40.”

For more information about skin care protection and prevention, go to skincancer.org/prevention.